Habitat characteristics of wintering Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix in the Centre Region of Cameroon: conservation implications
Populations of many Afro-Palearctic birds have declined, with those wintering in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix, particularly affected. In this study we investigated the relationship between habitat characteristics and Wood Warbler presence/absence in the Centre Region of Cameroon. A total of six transects were established in three habitat types (forest, forest–savanna transitional zone and savanna). Call playback surveys were conducted monthly from November 2015 to April 2016 to determine Wood Warbler presence/absence. Detailed habitat measurements were also recorded in each transect. A total of 86 responses were recorded: 33 (mean 6.6 ± 2.3) in forest habitat, 47 (mean 9.4 ± 3.36) in the forest–savanna transitional zone, and 6 (mean 2 ± 1.1) in savanna habitat. Wood Warbler presence increased significantly with the number of trees between 3 and 7 m in height, and decreased significantly with the number of shrubs between 0.5 and 3 m in height. Anthropogenic disturbance such as the agricultural cycle and burning were not found to have an effect on Wood Warblers presence/absence. We conclude that Wood Warblers overwinter in all three habitat types with probability of detection greatest in the forest–savanna transitional habitat with a relatively low canopy and an open understorey. Forest clearance in sub-Saharan Africa potentially threatens wintering habitat for Wood Warblers.